The real cost of flying to the ISS is much higher

But there’s much more to think about. For one, the cost per seat to ride on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is an estimate for NASA (pdf) from 2019, and it has likely risen.


Presumably, Axiom’s customers also cover the cost of Whitson’s flight, since NASA requires a professional astronaut chaperone onboard. That adds about $20 million to each paying passenger’s ride. Then there’s the question of how much Axiom is charging. Despite the high cost of the trip, the limited supply of seats suggests Axiom could charge deep-pocketed individuals and governments a decent fee for getting them to orbit. By the time everything adds up, the cost of a trip could reach toward $100 million a person.

NASA hopes to replace the aging ISS with privately operated space stations that can serve its needs in low-Earth orbit, while also attracting customers like space tourists, foreign governments, and private companies. Letting private companies visit the publicly funded lab aims to prove that there’s enough demand for these services to attract sizable private investment.


Judging by Axiom’s flight plans and its goal of launching a new module to the ISS in 2025—alongside the other companies plotting to launch their own orbital habitats—NASA’s strategy is working so far.

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